Ole! for Ohla! FoodsJun 30, 2021 08:30AM ● By Bernice Butler
Ohla! Foods sells packaged good health foods that debut this month in Central Market locations across Texas. Founder Lauren Schwalb thinks that health food can typically taste gross, and she wanted to change that. As a young girl, her fondest memories were cooking in the family kitchen. When she met her husband Stephen in college, the two of them could often be found cooking for all their friends because food brings people together around a table.
The idea of making
healthy foods began when Lauren had her second daughter. After having an
allergic reaction, doctors told her to cut dairy and soy products from her
diet. Looking at the labels of all the things in her pantry, she realized that
was no easy task.
The couple came up
with the idea to create a health food company that offered nutritious and
healthy foods that also tasted good. After completing The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom program
together at the start of 2020, they got serious about what they were
eating and feeding their family. As an active family of four, they wanted to
eat healthy, but didn’t want to sacrifice taste and Ohla! was
born. “I want people to understand that in order to eat healthy, you don’t have
to sacrifice taste,” Lauren says. “I don’t want people who [have dietary
restrictions] to feel left out.”
Ohla! takes its
name from the family, with each letter representing the name of a member. They
explain that one of the most difficult parts of launching amid a pandemic was
finding retail partners at a time when many were focused on keeping shelves
stocked with essentials.
It took about six
months of tinkering to get the right recipe. Casava flour falls apart too
easily, and chickpea flour doesn’t taste right. Lauren ultimately chose almond
flour for the base of Ohla!’s tortilla and began testing out different variations
on coworkers, family and friends. Everyone that tried it liked it, so toward
the end of last year, Ohla! set up shop at the farmers' market and sold out
each day. That led her to expansion and finding a manufacturer, which she
ultimately did in New Braunfels, Texas.
With a boost from Central Market, Ohla! has launched its second product, an almond flour-based chip, Ch!pOhla!. Going back to her roots as an idea person, Lauren is cooking up a number of product ideas for Ohla! and hopes to launch two new flavors of chip in the next month. After that, the company will be looking for more retail partners, with a focus on Texas and the South, and a goal of becoming a national brand.
While Lauren runs the company, Ohla! is a family business. Her daughters taste test and acted as part-time tortilla pressers while working at the farmer’s market. Stephen, who she jokingly refers to as a “spreadsheet", helps with the finances. While Lauren hopes Ohla! becomes a well-known name across the country, she also hopes it provides a lasting legacy for her loved ones. “My goal is to get this in the hands of many consumers,” she say. “I see so much joy when I give my product to people and people really like it. The idea of being at retail stores and touching consumers and people outside of my network, knowing a stranger is walking down an aisle and picking up that product and connecting with it, that means something to me.”For more information, visit OhlaFoods.com.